Tuesday, May 26, 2015

`Enough Delusion for Ambition'

“Yet it is necessary to hope, though hope should always be deluded; for hope itself is happiness, and its frustrations, however frequent, are less dreadful than its extinction.” 

Hope, when not slogan or pipe dream, is easily confused with momentum. Sometimes it is momentum – keep doing today what worked passably well yesterday and probably will tomorrow. Growing up means shedding expectations and learning to live without guarantees. This is prudence, not pessimism. “Nothing is more hopeless than a scheme of merriment.” In one of his “Pocket-Size Poems” (Collected Poems, 1998), written in the early nineteen-eighties, C.H. Sisson writes: 

“When I thought what I could do
Fifty years ago, I knew
There must be something I'd do well,
What it was I could not tell;
I had not done it, that was clear.
Nor have I now. How can there be
Ignorance enough left to me
For hope to feed on, when there isn't
Enough delusion for ambition?” 

The two prose passages quoted above are from Dr. Johnson’s The Idler #58, published on this date, May 26, in 1759. It is the wisest assessment I know of pleasure, happiness and merriment, and their rightful place in the human scheme.

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